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Pirelli calendar as empowering feminist statement? Goodness, gracious no

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The era’s popular feminism has all of the revolutionary form and fibre of week-old custard. But, those tens of you drawn to my shitty opinions already know this and so let’s not pretend that this week’s “feminist” approbation for the Pirelli calendar is any kind of surprise. And, let’s not spend unnecessary minutes in the service of the obvious and ask those news sites that call the Pirelli calendar “feminist” or, in the case of an actual feminist news service, “irrevocably feminist” to “get fucked”, “get fucked” or “get irrevocably fucked”.

I have given up the tedious work of trying to revoke the irrevocable and if ten bajillion tedious western liberal fuckers want to “celebrate” the fact that a fucking tyre manufacturer has printed pictures of women in modest dress after a half century of printing pictures of women in nothing but a cupful of jizz-moistened sand, let them.
Let these global village idiots believe that the marketplace of images can be civilised. Let these new sisters believe that the only way out of a maze of images is by complicating the maze with new images. Let “feminism” think that the register of its success is to swap the appearance of bikinis with the appearance of conspicuous success. Yes, yes. You’ve done well banishing those whores from the pages of a trade pub. Let’s celebrate a new kind of whoredom! Let’s hope that the privileged men who receive this high-end soft-porn will pull their puds to the rhythms of female empowerment. And maybe a Maya Angelou poetry recording.
Look. I can’t be arsed explaining again to a dozen people who already agree with me that changing the look of the commodity doesn’t change the terrible power of the commodity. Or how “diversity” in images is no more evidence of freedom than a diversity of supermarket choices. Or, that we in the west rationalise airstrikes on nations because they “cover their women up”, yet we see this same modesty in ourselves as cause for celebration. Have The Terrorists Won? No, the idiotic ideology of the west, which informs popular feminism, has won.
Shite. If you can’t see that this calendar is just more of the same paralysis, you can fuck right off to a more “empowering” place. A place where the lie that the gender pay gap can be cured by turning real porn into success porn. A place where the hearts appended to your #brave selfie are a currency of belonging. A place where Fashion Week is full of #makeupfree plus-size models whose mild divergence from a previous image of perfection will suddenly stop family violence, or whatever.
I don’t know. I no longer care to follow the “argument” of contemporary feminism which seems chiefly concerned with horrible violence and tedious culture and how these two things are somehow intimately connected. I think I stopped bothering at about the time a “piece” of “feminist” “writing” that concerned Miss Piggy appeared. Apparently, the way she hits Kermit is “problematic” and not sufficiently representative of the true nature of family violence.
I would say that moral guardianship is not the work of the Jim Henson Creature Shop, but those people who believe that this are “irrevocably” munted. Instead, I will say something that I have been saying to myself lately: moral guardianship is not the work of corporations.
So, this is no direct complaint about the Pirelli calendar, the positive “feminist” response to the Pirell calendar or even the cynicism of companies that know very well that acts of liberalism, such as honouring women or supporting same-sex marriage, is excellent marketing.
Actually, I suspect that many companies don’t even see their sale of empowerment as a market obligation anymore. I suspect that many companies, such as Apple which build extraordinary wealth on tax evasion and documented labour abuses, genuinely believe that they’re doing the Right Thing. And we believe that they’re doing the Right Thing. Certainly, I have at times allowed myself to believe that the “frictionless” capitalist Bill Gates is doing the Right Thing by using his wealth to fund very practical immunology programs. But, this happy view of mine was only made possible by forgetting (a) the terms of trade which permitted Bill Gates to amass so much wealth are those that very directly produce poverty and, in many cases, disease and (b) it is not the responsibility of private individuals or corporations to decide who to save.
Bill Gates was not elected. Cutting the remaining shred of red tape that binds us to democracy is not so much a “frictionless” act as it is fascist. We did not appoint this leader of industry. He was elevated to his current social influence by the fact of his business influence. And this is not to say that he is not a man of good intentions and it is not to say that his programs are ineffective or that he is a cowboy inoculator jabbing the citizens of dependent economies with homeopathic fiction. He probably takes good medical advice. I’m sure Mr Pepsico takes good advice from dietitians in his nutritional philanthropy, even as he continues to piss subsidised sugar water into the mouths of a world that is becoming insulin resistant. Maybe Pirelli consulted with Important Feminists before deciding to celebrate the Beauty Within. Who knows? Corporations involved in this perverse moral exchange of cultural and financial philanthropy for profit can think whatever they want.
The point is what we think. And if we continue to think, as we do, without serious question. that Bill Gates can stand in for the state or the WHO or that Apple’s good intentions can stand in for the fact that it rarely pays tax and sources labour from the prisons of capital or that Pirelli can stand in for women’s achievement, then perhaps we deserve to be smeared in the jizz-moistened sand of our desert future.
Lately, I have been quite troubled by the language of “disruption”, of the dream of social order fisted by the frictionless invisible hand. Those who speak it freely from the back of an Uber—another company that has done away with the tiresome social business of paying tax—are absolutely convinced that the “sharing” economy, the frictionless and decentralised market which appears to connect people but actually builds big edifices of corporate wealth, is also a just economy.
I do understand that innovation is a good thing. I know our state institutions are far from ideal. But I don’t buy the idea that private enterprise can do the work of the state—or even, in many cases, the work of innovation— better. Of course, companies that extract profit from the bodies and minds and hours of labourers can often be more “efficient”, but only by very specific measures. And, fuck me, even if they could produce good or better social outcomes—let’s imagine a world where Pirelli advances the lot of a gender it has hitherto showered in jizz–what fucking business is it of business to do state or moral business? I DID NOT APPOINT THESE PEOPLE.
We have no trouble telling the government to “get out of my vagina” etc, yet we seem to very easily afford Pirelli the privilege of governing tits; that they’ve elected this year to cover the tits up is neither here nor there.
The business term “disruption”, which often means flouting those bothersome rules of the state like paying icky tax, now extends, as business terms often do, to the culture. We look to companies to immunise the poor feed the hungry and, now, empower the women.
I have written these thoughts in great haste and I would like to have more deftly drawn a connection between the hidden greed of Silicon Valley—and an upvote to Julian Assange for calling this ideology as poison and as dangerous as that of extreme Islamism—and the hidden tits of Milan. But I will just say, as I so often do, that you are probably a prong. And so is anyone who believes that “innovative” or “empowering” private enterprise will save the world.

6 responses to “Pirelli calendar as empowering feminist statement? Goodness, gracious no

  1. Hi, you may get bored by having to repeat what you probably have expressed hundred of times, but it saves us to have to write it, so thanks for that! I will plagiarise wherever I have to say something!
    I wanted to fill in the Survey, but the choices offered to suggest more of something, did not include ‘more of Helen Razer’s opinion pieces’, so I just desisted to fill it in.
    Keep going, you are the first (actually ‘and only’) I look for in Daily Review!

  2. Yep, the problem is that the government has become subservient to business, so although I would like the voted in politicians to lead on issues, on our behalf, they don’t. Moral work should not be the work of corporations, but they will certainly be happy to appear to do it, and claim the brownie points. Feel nice platitudes are just a cheap slogan away. Governments are losing their power. Take for example the president of the united states saying its time to do something about guns, instead of just doing it. Who is he asking permission from? I read yesterday that on average almost 100 people a day are murdered by gunshot in the US. Not accidentally shot, killed deliberately. Thirty two thousand people is the actual number for 2014. And yet the US government has to suggest its time to do something, rather than just do it. Why? Governments are losing their power.

    1. I understand what you mean and I am broadly supportive of your objection to the diminished powers of the state in (legitimate) public safety matters. But, I think the gun control matter, and indeed, the matter of the limited powers of the US Presidency, is not a good example. Gun control has long been an impossible dream in the US; this is nothing new. And nor is the fact of Presidential impotency in many affairs.

        1. Resisting the urge to correct you again on the use of “begging the question” (god, I’m awful) no it doesn’t, really. The case of gun control in the US is historically quite clear.

  3. Just caught-up with Helen Razer’s article on the Pirelli calendar. Outspoken and relevant print. It is a pity that there would seem to be no one of equal opinion and calibre in the UK. Surely the UK papers are no more right-wing than those in Australia or that the British public is incapable of reading and listening to views such as those she conveys. Razer is one example of where there is merit in listening to “opinions” – and learning from them! Keep up the good work Daily Review.

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